Sep 11, 2014 - 3:15pm

Senate’s Attack on First Amendment Rights Fails


Senior Editor, Digital Content

The latest attack on restricting Americans’ free speech rights was halted in the Senate, The Hill reports:

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a constitutional amendment meant to reverse two recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign spending.

Senate Democrats need 60 votes to end debate on the measure, but fell short in the 54-42 party-line vote.

It’s alarming to see that so many Senators supported limiting the First Amendment for partisan political purposes.

U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue weighed in after the Senate’s vote:

Few measures deserve to be more roundly rejected than Senator Udall’s amendment to repeal free speech rights enshrined in the Constitution and give politicians more control over Americans participation in the nation’s policy and political debates.

The Senate is playing with fire when its majority leader routinely takes to the Senate floor to demonize and condemn Americans exercising their right to free speech and when it entertains amendments that would abridge our fundamental rights to speak, associate freely to advance common beliefs and positions, and petition the government. And all to advance a partisan political agenda.

It’s deeply disturbing that with all the major challenges facing America today, Senate Democrats would insist on debating this outrageous and dangerous amendment. Efforts to curb free speech rights have no place in America, much less on the floor of the United States Senate. The Udall Amendment should never see the light of day again.

Prior to the vote, columnist George Will lambasted the 48 Senators who co-sponsored Senator Tom Udall’s (D-NM) constitutional amendment:

Forty-eight members of the Democratic caucus attempted to do something never previously done: Amend the Bill of Rights. They tried to radically shrink First Amendment protection of political speech. They evidently think extremism in defense of the political class’s convenience is no vice.

The First Amendment, as the First Congress passed it and the states ratified it more than 200 years ago, says: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” The 48 senators understand that this is incompatible — by its plain text, and in light of numerous Supreme Court rulings — with their desire to empower Congress and state legislatures to determine the permissible quantity, content and timing of political speech. Including, of course, speech by and about members of Congress and their challengers — as well as people seeking the presidency or state offices.

Will goes on to explain how the amendment would empower incumbents:

Because all limits will be set by incumbent legislators, the limits deemed “reasonable” will surely serve incumbents’ interests. The lower the limits, the more valuable will be the myriad (and unregulated) advantages of officeholders.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.